Canada: The Laid-Back Uncle Who Joined the Tea Party

So what happened to Canada? I have followed the country’s politics only intermittently over the  years (despite being an international relations and politics junky and having relatives there). The Quebec secessionist movement was a newsmaker in my youth, but since that time I have seen Canada as like a rather laid-back (but a little bit boring) good-intentioned uncle, contrasting sharply with the schizophrenic one across the border.

Canada? To outsiders the country is the home of an efficiently functioning health service, sensible gun control, a well-regulated financial system and decent public education that covers the vast majority of its citizens. A veritable Switzerland set at the top of North America.

But then we come to climate change—and Mr and Mrs Common Sense metamorphosize into Sarah Palin-loving red necks screaming ‘drill baby drill’. How much of this can be put down solely to the lead of the government headed by Stephen Harper? Wikiepedia gives the gory details. And this article, via Skeptical Science, shows how the government’s tone has soured the usually sensible Canadian organs of state.

But what of the man or woman in the Canadian street? Have they been sneaking out the house surreptitiously to join a Tea Party-type gathering down the road? Well, the data suggest ‘no’. This report from the Brookings Institute compares public attitudes toward climate change in the U.S. and Canada. The calm and collected Canadian lives! (Albeit a bit battered).

The question then is whether the Canadian Conservative Party can continue to carry its base. Fossil fuel-funded climate skeptic think tanks have been remarkably successful in turning climate change into a wedge issue of the right in the last decade in the U.S. and Canada—and to a lesser extent the U.K. Yet I think the right has made a horrible mistake in accepting the fossil fuel embrace. Climate change is not a normative issue like abortion; at least with respect to whether it exists or not. If you build your stall on a climate skeptic foundation it will become undermined if the planet warms and the seas rise—which they will if you consult anyone who actually knows anything about the topic (rather than consult people who confirm a preconceived view).

Critically, to anyone with proclivities to the right, I ask the question: “Do you quite understand the Faustian pact you have entered?” Looking out a few decades, what is the greatest threat to individual liberty and small government? I can say unequivocally that it is climate change. Dangerous climate change will trash individual liberties and will lead to a burgeoning state.

In the 1930s, there were those on the right who were attracted to the siren call of Nazi ideology. But there were also those on the right, most obviously Winston Churchill, who recognised the siren call for what it was: a direct attack on individual liberty. His genius was to forge a consensus of left and right that recognised a common enemy. It was not an easy stance and resulted in The Wilderness Years. But he was proved right, and the British Conservative Party has not suffered the ignominy of being forever branded with the sobriquet of ‘Nazi Appeasers’.

Back to Canada, within which exists a strong movement to act against climate change—despite the government’s stance. My fellow blogger at The Green Word has been highlighting a campaign led by the David Suzuki Foundation against the Keystone XL pipeline. While I would urge anyone of a left or liberal persuasion to support this campaign, actually I think it just as important (if not more so) that the right do as well. Opposing the verisimilitude of climate change, and the urge to act against it, is an act of political suicide. Sometimes in life we get the opportunity ‘to do the right thing’ which is also in one’s own very narrow interests. This is one of them.

One response to “Canada: The Laid-Back Uncle Who Joined the Tea Party

  1. First, thank you for the “plug” 🙂
    Second, the Canadian government’s position on climate change extremely frustrating. They claim that they believe in climate change, that it is a great threat, however, their actual policies say the complete opposite. For example, I’ve read statements from our Natural Resources minister that dealing with climate change and growing the Alberta Tar Sands are not mutually exclusive!?! That’s like saying that losing weight and buying junk food aren’t mutually exclusive!
    Plus, if you look at the progression of our environmental and fiscal policies, there is one single theme: oil, gas and mineral exploration. From proposed free-trade agreements that would expose the country to lawsuits if a pipeline is rejected, to the dismantling of our environmental protection system, to the closing of research facilities that work on environmental problems.
    And, at the end of the day, this single minded focus on fossil fuels will turn around and bite us in the *ss. Eventually, the global community will wake up and take important actions to fight climate change (will it be too late?). And when that time comes, and interest in our fossil fuels fades, our economy will be ravaged. But, try telling that to the average Canadian…

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